The brief life of the Gavel Pub, Edmonton’s attempt to create a courthouse-themed bar

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For those returning to the Edmonton courthouse after a pandemic-induced hiatus, the Gavel Pub is something of a mystery — a court-themed bar, directly across from the courthouse, that never opened. or permanently closed.

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Kelly Savage is convinced that if timing had been on her side, the little pub would have been a success.

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« I loved it, instantly, » she said, recalling her husband Vern Savage’s suggestion to adopt her location adjacent to the courthouse. “Everything inside the bar was based out of court or legal (terms), including the menu. We had signs (above the bar) that said « Queen’s Bench ». We couldn’t have a stage, so we thought, you know, we’ll put railings up there and call it the holding cell.

Kelly Savage had managed several drinking establishments in Edmonton and found an inexpensive option to open her own place at the former site of Bohemia, a nightclub and concert hall that closed at the start of the pandemic.

Savage envisioned The Gavel as a watering hole adjacent to the courthouse where lawyers, judges and even defendants could enjoy law-themed bar fare (at 1980s prices) in a colorful atmosphere filled with local press clippings and models in court robes. The menu and decor mixed legal Canadianisms (duty counsel fries, for example) and American media like People’s Court and Judge Judy (where judges actually use gavels, unlike their Canadian cousins) .

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It didn’t help that much of the courthouse’s foot traffic moved online.

« People just didn’t know we were there, » Savage said. « I had my husband dressed as a convict on the street. And a judge too, you know, promoting us.

Still, the pub managed a few regulars from nearby law firms and the occasional person heading to the courthouse for a case or to pay a fine. But that wasn’t enough to keep the business going, and COVID relief funds weren’t available as the pub opened during the pandemic. They closed permanently on April 9, 2021 and continue to look for a buyer.

Savage doesn’t regret opening the bar, only the timing. She is convinced that the courthouse bar is still a niche to be filled.

« I honestly believe that if somebody keeps the name, whoever buys it, if they keep the name, they (can) get away with it, » she said.


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